With each day seeing more Americans getting vaccinated against Covid-19, many theme park fans are asking - when can I plan a vacation again?
Of course, you could head for Orlando right now. Walt Disney World and other theme parks are open - but surveys suggest that's off the table for the majority of Americans right now. Whether it's because they want to see things getting better or they don't want to visit under the park's current Covid-19 rules, most people are staying away from the parks at the moment.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek said this week that Disney anticipates keeping its masking and physical distancing rules in place at its theme parks through the end of the year. However, Chapek also said that he does not anticipate keeping those rules in place for 2022.
Will the pandemic really be over by then? Let's look at some numbers.
As of yesterday, more than 48 million Covid-19 vaccination doses had been administered in the United States. Given a population of 328 million and a need to vaccinate up to 90 percent of the population to be sure of achieving herd immunity, that means the U.S. needs to vaccinate 295 million people to stop the spread of Covid-19 in the country. Since each person needs two doses for full protection (with current vaccines), that means we need to get to 590 million doses to be over this thing.
To hit that number by, say, the end of August, we would need to be administering about 2.7 million doses a day - about a million a day more than our current rate. (Remember that vaccines manufactured or distributed are not yet vaccines administered.) The more by which we can beat that number, the earlier that Covid-19 restrictions might end across the country. The new Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires just one dose, so adding that to the distribution mix will help the United States get to its herd immunity goal.
But if we do not increase the current vaccination rate, herd immunity will be delayed. And the longer we wait, the higher the risk that the immunity conferred by vaccination might weaken before the population is immunized... meaning that we might have to start a second round of immunizations to stop the disease. An increase in mutations by the virus might also require a round of new vaccines. So getting the spread of Covid-19 stopped before the virus can mutate further is essential.
What about international travel? To prevent the reintroduction of Covid-19, nations will have to keep their borders closed to other countries that have not contained Covid-19. What does that mean for the Orlando-area theme parks, which welcomed large numbers of international tourists before the pandemic?
I would bet you a loonie that Canada gets this thing under control before the United States does, so as soon as we do, Canadians will have the green light to fly to the Orlando-area parks whenever they would like - and Canada is Orlando's largest international market. No clue on second-place United Kingdom, though. And it's probably going to be a long while before we see Brazilian tourists (Orlando's third-largest international market) coming to Florida again, unless the United States just gives up on maintaining an international Covid-19 containment policy.
So if you are looking for a statistic to track to help guide your decision about when to plan a trip, look at that daily vaccination dose number. The higher it climbs, the earlier you can reasonably plan a Covid-free trip. If we get over two million a day within the next month, the Christmas holiday season should be a safe bet. More than 2.5 million a day should bring Halloween into play. Topping three million doses administered per day may give us more of the summer. But we need to get over four million a day pretty quickly for the Fourth of July to be a safe choice.
I remain troubled by a report that suggested the job at greatest risk for contracting Covid has been... restaurant cook. Let that remind you that it is not just about whether you can stay safe when you go out and about, it's whether the people who work to serve and support you during this pandemic can stay safe, too.
But there's no danger in thinking and dreaming about travel right now. So don't let the current situation keep you from imagining where you might like to go next, even if you choose to hold off for a while longer before making any reservations. We will keep covering what's happening at theme parks around the world and what's coming next to them, in the hopes that it will continue to inspire your vacation hopes and dreams.
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